Sichuan A319 loses cockpit windshield mid-flight

The flight passenger had accidentally opened the emergency exit door. Getty Images

Later on Monday, Sichuan Airlines said in a post on Weibo, a Chinese social network, that 29 of the plane's 119 passengers were sent to a hospital for examination.

The flight deck experienced a sudden loss of pressure and drop in temperature and when aircraft Captain Liu Chuanjian looked over, the cockpit's right windshield had shattered.

An Air China pilot, who declined to be named, praised Liu's skills and calmness. The co-pilot only suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the drama that unfolded at an altitude of 32,000 feet.

He says he felt the cold air and saw how the cockpit door opened. Most of the equipment malfunctioned. "The flight was shaking so hard I could not read the gauges", he said.

A pilot has been hailed a hero for making a successful emergency landing after his co-pilot was partially sucked through their broken cockpit window of a passenger plane.

After taking off at the Chinese municipality of Chongqing, passengers and crew sensed that something was wrong about half an hour into their flight to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.

Liu managed to pull his co-pilot back into the cockpit, according to his own account.

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A member of the cabin crew was injured in the descent, but no passengers were hurt.

A video published online by the People's Daily shows oxygen masks deployed, and flight attendants walking up and down the aisle to give passengers instructions on how to disembark. Within 20 minutes at around 7:46am, the captain safely landed the plane at the airport. One other cabin crew member was injured during the emergency landing, in Chengdu, Sichuan province, although no further details were given.

Passengers report being mid breakfast when the plane suddenly went dark, oxygen masks dropped and the plane plummeted toward the mountainous area below.

"It is a huge challenge facing decompression and low temperatures", said the Air China pilot.

Sichuan Airlines is a Chinese regional airline headquartered in Chengdu. Officials from Airbus said it would "would provide all necessary support upon request by the CAAC and Sichuan Airlines".

With two high-profile instances of cracked windows on planes in a month, how does this happen, how frequently do windshields shatter, and what is the protocol for pilots in these emergency incidents?

The cause of the incident was under investigation.

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